RIVERSIDE (CBSLA.com) — City officials in Riverside are considering a proposal to hire private, unarmed security guards to patrol city parks.
The proposal, which was reportedly first introduced at a Jan. 29 community meeting, comes in response to increased public complaints about criminal activity at city parks, including drug dealing, illegal camping, and two recent shootings, The Press-Enterprise reported.
Under the plan, the city would deploy security guards at 13 of a total of 58 parks citywide during evening hours. Some of the parks being considered are Arlington, Bryant, Fairmount, White, North, Hunt, Shamel, La Sierra, Doty-Trust, Villegas, Bobby Bonds, Bordwell and Lincoln, according to The Press-Enterprise.
Riverside Mayor Rusty Bailey said he and the council are proposing to spend about $50,000 on a private security firm that would patrol the most troubled places and nearby libraries.
“It’s truly a security issue more than a safety issue,” Bailey said. “Security patrols go around, close the parks, check the bathrooms, close the bathrooms.”
While public reaction to the proposal has been mixed, several city council members and officials with the Riverside Police Officers’ Association voiced opposition to the plan, calling it an “overreaction” that could suggest local parks aren’t safe, The Press-Enterprise reported.
Sgt. Brian Smith, the head of the Riverside Police Officers’ Association, said, “I think it’s an overreaction. We’re looking at two incidents that occurred in the last four months.”
Smith believes if the city needs more patrols, they should hire more police officers who have the training and experience to handle the issues.
“Examine where we’re spending the money and how we’re spending it, and if there’s an opportunity here to realize we can’t provide all of the resources that we used to, then maybe it’s time to look at beefing up our stats, as well, and putting more people in uniforms,” Smith said.
Resident Marcia Bissell, however, is willing to fight to save the parks.
“If they have to raise my taxes to pay for it, that’s okay with me,” she said. “We need people to be ever aware of their surroundings. The biggest thing is the unarmed guards do that.”